Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stealth and Moving Days

Stealth, because we have commandeered some bandwidth from an unsuspecting neighbor in order to keep in touch with the outside world. We'll be minimal and not ruin your internet speed, dear neighbor, I promise!

Moving Days, because we are sitting on loaned furniture in our very own living room. Let me say that again- in OUR LIVING ROOM. This is big. It has been such a long time coming- so many hopes, plans, risks and new experiences culminate in this. Our living room. Our cozy little apartment. We are so in love with this place.

It is on the base at Vogelweh, which is in the town of Kaiserslautern. While we initially hoped to live in the community, after some searching we realized that all we wanted was here, on the fourth floor of an Air Force barracks. Air Force housing is infinitely nicer than the Army housing, in our experience. By living here, we are able to avoid the costly utilities bills, which we would have to pay in Euro. The weakeness of the dollar is a huge factor in our final decision. We are able to walk to a commissary, and a base exchange, where we can buy either German or American goods at American prices. And a quick walk out of the gates puts us on the German economy, where I can pick up all of my favorite European foods. (As if I really needed any more excuse to buy Kinderschokolade products!)

We are discovering that an entire, established German-American community exists here. There are clubs to join, cho, arts groups and hiking groups, tours to take, baking and cooking and language classes. Many of these things are available through a German-American friendship community center. Others are sponsored by the armed forces or the USO. It's a totally different world, being stationed overseas.

But really, back to the apartment. If you haven't seen the photos, do look!
We think we're going to paint, because I personally cannot stand four more years of institution-white walls! If anyone has a talent for choosing paint colors and would like to help me from afar, I'd love suggestions. Basically, I've always wanted a red room, and if left to my own devices I may just paint the entire place red. I know, deep down, that this is an awful idea. But it could happen. :o)

By the way, the floors are real, handmade hardwood planks. They are so beautiful. They just shine. I want to lay on the floor and look at the colors in the grain all day. But I won't. I've got much more important things to do... like write this blog.

I'll stop bragging now. I'll get Josh to write the next entry so perhaps you'll get a break from constant apartment talk.


Saturday, February 16, 2008


What a fun and exhausting 24 hours we have had!

We decided, along with the Heards, that is was high time we got some train action and got out of "little America". Last night, we stayed at their place so we could make an early departure. We planned to go to Stuttgart for the day.

Plans often change, yes? :o) Our departure was a bit later than idealized, but no harm in that. We prepped warm clothes, guidebooks, and snacks for the journey. We thought it silly (and perhaps unwise) to leave the car at the train station all day, so instead we walked from base (which is on a small mountain) to the station. The excellent German train system allows for weekend passes for small groups, and up to five people may travel an unlimited amount for three days, for only 26 euro. If you are unfamiliar with train travel, that is a smashing deal.

On the way to Kaiserslautern- the first, very short leg of our journey- we got some annoying news from Josh and Matt's company, and feared that they may be called back to work within hours. Time to revise the plan! As it turned out, our train cards were really only for the Rheinland-Pfalz area (which is where we live) and Stuttgart is well within Baden-Wurtemburg, our neighbor to the southeast. Easily solved! We decided to continue only to Heidelberg. (For those of you who know your German geography- we luckily didn't have any problems at that distance with our territory-specific weekend pass.)

We arrived in Heidelberg mid-morning and began our walk toward the castle. Our guidebook suggested a walking path through the pedestrian area in the old city, and by following it we were able to see some beautiful historic landmarks. Notable was the Jesuit church, whose facade was an impressive presence. They just remodeled their organ and are having its first concert tomorrow. Along the main pedestrian strip, we found lots of delicious-looking baked goods, traditional German restaurants, as well as some interesting shops. Katie was excited about finding a Starbucks- her first in nearly a year- so of course we made a little stop. It was nice to rest the feet and it also made me happy to notice differences and similarities between a European Starbucks and my former place of employment.

Luckily for us, Katie was also excited to see a great little shop called "Lush," which I soon learned makes all-natural and organic bath and body products. It is similar in intention to a Body Shop, but feels much more home-grown and artsy. It was fun for all of us (except maybe Matt was a bit bored) to look at the bath bombs, the butter soaps and jelly soaps, and to smell all of the concoctions. In the end, we each opted for a sale grab-bag of items, and discovering what we'd purchased gave us something to look forward to for the train ride home.

The Alte Brucke (old bridge) crosses the Rhine, and of course we took in the scenery of lovely Heidelberg from its span. Next, we tackled the biggest challenge of all- climbing the ridiculous hill leading to the castle. It was quite a difficult climb, especially considering the cold and our numbing limbs, but it was well worth it in the end. The view is completely astounding. The castle itself is an interesting mix of period archetecture, and I was confused by what seemed to be neoclassical add-ons. The Heards have loaned us a book on the Heidelberg castle, so I can figure out why the architecture was so very diverse and learn move of its history. Interestingly, Josh and I kept stumbling upon sort of Freemason symbolism- a sort of game we play, try to spot the symbols. We ate some schnitzel at a cafe behind the castle and then wandered for a bit in the gardens. Soon after, we realized that the sun was going down and we still had quite a walk to complete.

By the time we reached Landstuhl again, we had walked an estimated 5-6 miles! No wonder we are all aching so badly! But we enjoyed a great day of exploring, allowing ourselves to get lost just the right amount so as to allow for discovery and fun. We have some wonderful photos, but as of now I have no way to transfer my pictures to my laptop. We'll let you all know when we've got that figured out.

And now it's late and my body is tired, but my mind is reeling with all of the excitement of travel. It was especially meaningful because I know it was Josh's first real trip in Europe. I couldn't help but feel so lucky all day, because unlike the last time that I lived in Europe, I don't have the sense of urgency. I feel like we can enjoy these countries, enjoy this rich history and beauty, and it's not going to be taken from us any time soon.

We can't wait for you to come and share these experiences with us!

OH, IN OTHER QUICK NEWS- we found an apartment that we LOVE and we will be moving in next Thursday. Excellent!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Send us a line

If you want to contact us by mail we have an APO mailbox now. I'm not going to say what it is here but you can email us here with a request for the address, and we will send you the address in a reply as soon as we can. Thanks.

p.s. If you don't have your computer set up to use "mailto"'s, don't worry, just take a peek at the address line, and that's where the link would send the email to.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

And the Odyssey begins...

So, we are finally here; after all the months of waiting and prepping. But now I have to inprocess, which will take about a month to do, and in the mean time, I can't do my real job. That's bad, because, for now, I don't know whether or not I'm on a good squad yet, and I'll have to be running around to everywhere, which is annoying. It's also good, because it means I have a predictable schedule to spend time with Becky.

But there's other news also. It seems as though Becky and I have made friends in the two days we've been here: the Heard family. SPC Heard was my sponser while we were in Maryland, and we've hung out a couple times (Becky and I with him and his wife), and we all seem to get along together. They have a couple of dogs, a German shephard and a Belgian shephard, which turned out to be very well trained, and big babies to boot. Becky and I really like the apartment they live in (even though it's on post), and we might look at one in the near future. I hope I end up on Heard's squad, so we can continue to hang out, and also because I heard it's a good squad. I don't know if I will though, because his squad doesn't have the least amount of people on it. Oh well. Here's hoping, anyhow. But, since it's 5 something in the morning, now, I think I'm going to go.